Students enjoy a demonstration of healthy food
Easy ways to get your veggies during National Nutrition Month

Go for the green!

Any discussion about maintaining a healthy diet and managing weight will almost always include vegetables. Vegetables are a key component of any diet because of their high nutrient content.

As a nation, however, we struggle to consume the recommended amount of vegetables. According to one CDC report, only 27% of American adults consume at least three servings of vegetables per day. Even though we’re told over and over again that we need to eat our vegetables, that rate doesn’t seem to improve.

Eating vegetables is a lot like getting physically active: we know it’s good for us, but we come up with all kinds of excuses why we don’t do it. But it’s easier than you think!

Here are some ideas to help you increase vegetable intake and decrease excuses.

What to look for:

Consider the color and amount. You want to eat a variety of vegetables that are rich in different colors – “make a pretty plate,” as the home economics teachers used to say. Try to include green, orange/yellow, and purple/red vegetables in your diet every week.

Keep in mind what you’ll eat throughout the week. Many of us go to the grocery store less than once a week, so fresh produce you buy may go bad before you get a chance to eat it.

  • Challenge yourself to use the fresh produce in meals before using the other groceries purchased.
  • Supplement fresh produce with frozen or canned. Choose products that are as close to fresh as possible. Select frozen vegetables that do not contain any sauces, and look for canned vegetables with low sodium.

Think ahead to your prep. Many of us may think of the time it takes to wash and chop up vegetables as a limiting factor. However, we almost always can find 15 minutes sometime during our week. Whenever you find yourself with 15 minutes to spare, prepare your vegetables for the week. Wash, chop, and store ahead of time. This makes it easy to grab something for your lunch or add veggies into your meal.

Increasing your vegetable intake will provide your body with more nutrients, but how do you increase your intake? Use a little creativity; your options are endless!

Start with some of these easy ideas:

Get saucy!

Creating a sauce for pasta or rice is easy, whether you add to a canned sauce or make one from scratch. You can do all of the prep while waiting for the water to boil and cooking the pasta or rice.

Sauté a variety of vegetables, add pasta sauce and simmer. Try bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, or zucchini. If you’re not a fan of chunky sauce, try shredding a carrot or zucchini directly into the sauce.

Roast ‘em!

Roasting is a simple but powerful technique that brings out tons of flavor. Get creative and try different vegetables; nearly all vegetables taste great roasted. You can always add flavor with chopped onions, herbs or spices.

Simply toss raw vegetables with a small amount of olive oil, sea salt, and ground pepper, spread out on a baking sheet, and roast. The roast time and temperature will vary depending on the vegetable. Less starchy vegetables such as asparagus, kale, or broccoli can roast between 325-375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets can roast between 375-425 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.

To try: Roasted Squash with Mint and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Spice it up!

If you think vegetables are bland, try out some of the following ideas:

Top it off!

We all have nights when we’re rushed and throw something pre-made in the oven or microwave. Take two minutes to top a pre-prepped pizza or frozen dinner with some vegetables. Some pizza favorites are bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and spinach.

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